Friday, November 17, 2017

There's a Better View

Our Christian children are not best revealed by how they behave—they are best revealed by who God says they are. Our struggle is to focus upon the latter, because we live by faith in what He says is true about them.

Without excusing poor, fleshly behavior, we must not allow it to sell the lie that our kids are how they look. When the surface of our children looks particularly stormy, we must know that under the waves something is amiss, and we need to go there. If our children’s flesh is on display in all of its ugly evidence (as it sometimes is with us), our goal is to rescue them. Revive them! Our best help to people is to build them up in Christ, to remind them of how He has made them, and to make sure they know He is in them—and still happy about that at all times. If their behavior is stinky, it’s usually because their thinking is too. You can help them by interrupting their thinking and refocusing their little heads upon the truth and gospel of Jesus.

That’s the power that makes them free to live by the Spirit. It might take a little while for them to shift their thinking to the Spirit, who makes them well and happy, but you will have assisted them to know how to live by Christ throughout their days. That’s the best there is. Plus, you will be better off for it, because you will be focused upon the truth. And that’s where the life and power of God is.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Where's My Phone?

Okay, I have to know. Of all the women who have cell phones—that’s pretty much all of you—how many of you feel foolish and maybe guilty for leaving it unattended somewhere, temporarily losing it, or forgetting where it is altogether? If “Where’s my phone?” is one of your most anguished questions of 2017, this is for you. 

There is NO CONDEMNATION FOR YOU! I know that you have no pockets in which to put and tote your phone, so it’s not your fault. You are unfairly treated by the fashion industry, which puts hip-slimming pockets in your clothing fit for diminutive baby dolls. Put that together with a cellie the size of a blimp, and of course you’re not going to carry it with you—you’re going to put it down because you’ve got a lot to do with your hands. They don’t fit in your pockets either. Gals pinwheel their hands in conversation because they’ve got no place to put them. It’s all a conspiracy.  

Therefore and herinafter, I pronounce you INNOCENT. 

As part of your recovery process, maybe you gals could start taking a knee in the pants department at Kohl’s, Dillard’s, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Loft, and even Costco. I don’t know, but it could become a thing. I can’t make it all better, but I can tell you that this gargantuan-pocketed, pant-wearing man knows about your stress-filled, cell phone trauma, your fashion torture, and I’m here to tell you that it’s not your fault. You are well! You are good. 

So rock on, cellie mamas! Rock on!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Get The Stink Off

While a good attitude, a solid support group and decent health care helps in times of trouble, it has always been knowing God’s love that makes noble conquerors out of otherwise scaredy-cats.  The desire to know God’s love is the highest desire that He can give you because it is the desire for Himself, and that is where your satisfaction is found, that is where your ability—and beyond—is found.  The desire for love satisfied will shape your days, frame your efforts and focus your hopes in the midst of uncertain, crazy and difficult times.  As much as anything else, this is the work of God toward you.  It’s what He’s doing today.  First.  And last.

Frankly, most of us already know what the pursuit of love is like, having chased after the lesser loves of people, power and things that gave us worse than satisfaction; we were twisted in the chase and diminished at the conclusion. I can tell you: the love of God is the destination we’ve sought, the satisfaction we’ve longed for. It’s supposed to be.

If you’ve been thinking that you’ve got no time to “bathe” in His love for you, maybe you’ve accepted the lie that His love isn’t practical or productive—you’ve got too much work to do after all.  That thinking stinks you up, and is the proof that you need a bath, however brief, because you’ve got to get that stink off—especially the kind of bath that gets rid of the inside stink, the mental one that stinks up your thinking.  Do you know about that stink?  Probably.

He makes all of the difference for you—really—and He knows exactly how you work.  Plus, He’s been through and experienced everything imaginable and more, long before you arrived on the scene, so He has all of the wisdom and comfort at the ready for you.  He has all of the motivation you need, all of the strength and all of the perspective.  That could be helpful in your day.  Right?

He is for you.  Remember?

(This is a transcript of the video, “Get The Stink Off,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video and to perhaps subscribe, click http://youtu.be/xSVtbQNLj7w.)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A New Accounting

Many of us will endure nasty accusations today that will insist we’ve messed everything up, and there’s little hope for the future. The prosecutor will point to an accounting of our record as evidence. It will be cunning and cruel. But Jesus, your Defender and Accountant, will remind you that your record and account was expunged and closed, and a full, new one created and opened in your name that will never perish, spoil or fade. 

This is the new arithmetic of heaven, where your sin + grace = perfection. Anyone wanting to play prosecutor or Spiritual IRS Agent with you will be harshly and immediately ejected from the courtroom as a liar. The facts and evidence in your favor are overwhelming and absolute—Jesus has seen to it.

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Colossians 2:13 And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. 14 He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"The Heart of Man" Movie Available Soon!

Hey, here’s good news! The Heart of Man movie is available now for pre-order on DVD, Blu-ray, and iTunes! I really enjoyed it because of the message it offers and the way it does that. It is a movie I will watch again and again. It's that good.

Go to  https://heartofmanmovie.com/collections/all to order yours.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Looseness & Legalism

Got 4.5 minutes? You’ve heard a lot about being too loose or too legalistic. Which term best describes you, and what can you do about it?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Double Scoop of Yes (Looseness & Legalism)

You know that verse that essentially says, “I can do whatever I want” but is immediately followed up with a sort of, “Yeah, but you’d better not”? The apostle Paul went for a sort of double dip with that because he said the same thing to the Corinthians two times in the same letter: 1 Corinthians 6:12, and 1 Corinthians 10:23.

In my experience, most of us need plenty of freedom and encouragement in navigating life with Jesus—the life of our days and the life that He is. I am no longer surprised that we go through pretty great swings of belief and experience, and I’m probably more relaxed about that now than I was in the past. Some of our swings go to the lawful, “I can do whatever I want” side: “Wow. Now that I’m a Christian, I am permitted to do whatever I want with no fear of payback from God. Isn’t that amazing?” Some swing to the other: “Wow. Now that I’m a Christian, I must live a life where I do only what glorifies Him. I’ll be held accountable.”

So which is it? My answer: Yes.

I think it’s healthy and to my benefit to occasionally ask the Spirit if I am too much one way, and too little the other. At times He has shown me that I can know Him better and find grace more evidently if I would commit to join Him in prayer, Bible reading and fasting, for example. “Ralph, you’ll like what you find if you’ll tighten up a bit. You’ll be better for it, so come with me.” He has my attention, and on we go together.

At other times, He has answered by showing me that I have become too much in control of my personal growth, and I’m blocking Him from doing for me what He would love to do on His own. “Relax, Ralph. Trust me with you. I’m going to surprise you with how capable I am in you, because I am better with you than you’ve been thinking lately.” He has my attention, and on we go together.

In both situations, I am living by faith in the One who lives in me—we’re connected—and there’s nothing better than that. We’re good, and I’m growing in knowing Him.

While some people identify all this as the struggle between looseness and legalism, I think that too quickly forces us into camps—without actually asking God anything. We’re then set up to throw verbal rocks at each other, angrily hurling our interpretation of certain passages in the hope that a bruise will grant repentance. That’s so Christian.

So don’t be afraid of asking God questions. He will always respond in a way that reveals Him to be just what you need—and more—every time. Yes.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Togetherness is the Thing

As a son of God, I can do whatever I want—I am that kind of free—and what I want most is to know God. I am His child, but that doesn’t mean immaturity; it means offspring. His delight (and my joy) is to grow us up with Him in such a way that we find out how perfect He is with us and for us. In that way, dependence or independence isn’t the thing, togetherness is the thing; and that’s most satisfying for both.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Knowing Him

To “know” Jesus means more than to know “about” Him. It means to experience Him in a way that expresses the reality and fullness of relationship. To me, that is much of the value found and the purpose of reading the Bible. The same is true for prayer, for fasting, for giving, for serving, and for most everything we encounter in our days. If Jesus is humanity’s best, most perfect friend (and He thinks He is), then I want to know Him—and to help you to the same. What’s better than knowing Him? Nothing that I have ever known.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Your Money & the New Covenant: LOVE WORKS

Does it seem to you that the primary motivators in life today are fear, guilt and anger?  I think that motivational trinity has crowded out what God intended—the motivation of love.

It’s happened to the church, too.

We seem ever to want to be motivated by crisis, by calamity, by a good cause and a good appeal, by a big need, or by a big kick to our backside.  I know the church doesn’t really want that, but it seems like it does.  And I sure don’t like it.  It’s not that we shouldn’t be motivated by a sudden event; it’s just that we can become addicted to the energy and appeal of the moment.  And there is something much better, something more true and constant, something given by God Himself.  The church was made for it.  That means you were, too.

God’s love produces confidence, daring, assurance, peace, rest, hope and, well, everything we need for life.  God’s very being is love, so if we, His sons and daughters, attempt to do much of anything apart from love, we fumble and act unnatural.  We feel it, too.  Like something’s seriously out of whack in us.  And it is.  When the behavior of the Corinthian Christians went seriously crazy, the apostle Paul pointed them back to the love of God because it is the prime motivator—it rescues, refreshes and compels the people of God (2 Corinthians 5:14).

God’s love works.  That’s the New Covenant way:  God in us, and God toward people and God toward situations that would involve Him in us.

I’m reminded of what love did to the Macedonian Christians not long after God first lived in them.  God gave an amazing grace to these people who lived in “extreme poverty” such that in their joy they gave what little they had so others could hear the gospel.  The Macedonians were in love with God, having first been won-over by His love for them.  And that love “welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2).  Do you get the combination?  They hit the big time!  God was in them toward some kind of brilliant display—in this case, giving.

There’s no need and there’s no room for laws about your money, because you’re ruled by the grace of God in you, not law.  Laws hijack love, stuff it in a closet and tell it to “Shut up!  You’re too sloppy and unreliable!” and instead offer you method, calculated and loveless measurement, and ultimately, condemnation.  That is not the New Covenant way, and that is not what the Macedonians had.  They had the love of God Himself, and that moved them. He moved them in love.

Paul then wrote to the Corinthians that they, too, should “excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you (In other words, I have no law!), but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (2 Corinthians 8:8, parenthesis mine).  Was it a test of whether they would give or be stingy misers?  No!  It was a test of love—love was the issue—and Paul was concerned about how love was issuing forth from the Macedonians.

That’s why the Macedonians gave – they were in love!  They didn’t give motivated by an appeal to sacrifice, they didn’t give to make sure their tithe was on time, they didn’t give because others were in need, and they didn’t give because it was the right thing to do.  They gave because they were in love, and that made their giving “acceptable” (2 Corinthians 8:12).  Their gift wasn’t acceptable for any other reason except that love brought it forth. 

(By the way, God’s love might compel you to actually give nothing sometimes.  Are you okay with that?)

The foundation of the New Covenant is that you have no covenant to keep—Jesus took care of that—you have the Holy Spirit in you to notice and to follow.  And He loves you!  Love is His primary evidence in you.

And that’s what drives me bonkers for the church, frankly.  I want believers to know and be motivated out of a burgeoning love affair with God.  I don't mean that we should never give unless we're right then invigorated by a love we can feel, but I fear we've gotten used to giving without it.  We've learned to motivate and to be motivated by something else.  That's what makes pushy pastors and manipulative motivators out of our leaders.  And I don’t think they like it any more than we do.

So let me sum it up:  If we're not behaving well and doing good, it's because we're missing God’s love.  That’s it.

If your motivation is low right now, what should you do?  Go get some love.  You need it and can’t live without it—not well, anyway.  If your giving lacks, if your service is stunted or reluctant, if there is gossip in the church and “sin in the camp,” go get some of His love, because for you, love works.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Your Money & The New Covenant:  LOVE WORKS,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/XzZZdSRGQus, or scroll down this blog page.)

Monday, October 09, 2017

Your Money & the New Covenant: LOVE WORKS

What makes giving or keeping our money godly?  How can we know?  Do we need standards by which to estimate the authenticity of what we do with money?  Here’s a pure and simple way to know God and His leading concerning money. It’s easier than you think, and you were made for this. 


Monday, October 02, 2017

A Prayer in Suffering--by Humanity & Storm

Father, we are undone. Many of us are suffering by storm and by humanity. We are so frail, and our need of you is stunningly evident. Since you are the “treasure in jars of clay”, we know you will be motivating your people in love, grace and kindness, and we are those people. Help us, Holy Spirit, to embrace our life with you today, and see the fruit of Christ in us. He is the antidote in this world, the champion of people beset by evil.

Help us to go forward in humility and the focus that comes from acknowledging that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

We know who we are—your sons and daughters—and we know what’s going on.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Be obvious to us and through us today, Jesus. That would be great. Amen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Resting In Christ

“Resting in Christ” does not mean a blissful state to which one can arrive, where all is good and easy, and not a single anxious nerve ending bothers. It’s a confidence that there is nothing you have to earn from God because His gift of righteousness and salvation has provided the eternal security of grace. You’ve been given everything for free.

Ask the apostle Paul if “resting in Christ” meant that he had not one fear as his ride to Rome sank (boat #3 goin’ down!); ask him if he had the cherubic look of a well-fed and burped baby when he was being stoned and left for dead; ask him if those prison chains always felt like gorgeous and glorious style points on the fashion runway of resting in Christ; ask him if his attitude was a happy-faced “It’s alllll good!” when yet another guy with a whip laid into his back, and I think he would laugh out loud.

“Are you kidding me?! I want nothing more than to get outta this torture chamber existence and to be with Jesus in heaven! But I doubt that today is the day that I have entrusted to Him, so I’m going to work—probably long hours in difficult, dangerous and unrewarding circumstances. That’s how it is until the One who secured me brings me home where I belong. He and I are good—He has seen to it! There’s nothing I have to do to be better off with Him. I’m at rest concerning all that, but my remaining days of trying to get others to believe in Christ’s offer of rest for themselves are going to hurt. My own people often refuse to stop trying to earn blessings and righteousness from God, rejecting His gift and the rest that comes from Him. But what can I do? I am charged with the gospel of Jesus, which is the power of God, so I will keep offering it, though turmoil and the pain of rejection await me. I am at rest in Christ, but my days will be difficult.”

“My advice to you? Remember to rest as you press on.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

What New Testament Submission Is All About

(If you wonder what Biblical submission is all about, this will be very encouraging for you.)

When reciting her wedding vows to me, Sarah looked me in the eyes and said, “I promise to submit to you.”  There were a few people in the audience who later told us that they were bothered by her promise to submit to me, until I made the same promise to her.  “Well, as long as it’s mutual, I guess it’s okay,” they said grudgingly.  It was almost as if we’d exchanged curse words.

“Submission.”  How does that word grab you? 

Here are a couple of not-so-popular Bible verses I’d like for you to consider today: 

1 Peter 1:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

If you’re an American, then it’s very likely that you’ve got thoughts and feelings about our current “king.”  And if we consider the “king” previous to him, well, just about everyone has experienced a high “cringe factor” when commanded to “submit” to the king and to his governors, let alone to a spouse.  Right?

But here’s the thing:  Paul’s command for submission is not a stand-alone-demand of surrender, as if God loves a grand capitulation.  “I just love it when my people bow down and give up.”  That’s not godly submission—not ever

New Covenant “submission” always comes loaded with reasons *why*, and great benefits for the one who submits.  Whether submitting to a worldly authority, to a spouse or to one another in relationships, offering myself in deference to another is so that I can be aware of God in me, for me, and for the situation I’m in.  In other words, submission is yet another way to know and to enjoy God in me, and for His kingdom in me to collide with and to affect the kingdom of this world. 

Jesus never did or said anything except what He “saw” and “heard” the Father do and say (He was tuned in to the Father), and He left us the perfect, most stunning example of submission in dire circumstances because of His awareness of God and the affect to come: 

1 Peter 2:22-23 ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’  23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

The “entrusted himself” part made all the difference!  And why did Jesus submit Himself to the cross?  Was it sheer obedience?  No, it was not.  Hebrews 12:2-3 tells us that He did it “. . .for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” 

In my view, the only way we will not grow weary and lose heart in submission is if we do it for the same reason Jesus did.  Human Jesus submitted to unjust torture and torment because He was knowing the Father, who revealed to Jesus “the joy set before Him. . .”  That resulted in faith that led to obedience.  Do you see it?  Knowing God keeps us from becoming weary in well-doing.  Anybody can do “well-doing,” but it’s the knowing God part that produces grace that’s perfect for the moment.

We’re not to go blind and un-feeling into submission!  Jesus certainly didn’t.  He walked knowingly into it, and He reaped the grace-sufficient benefit of living by faith that something good and greater was happening right then—God was happening, and Jesus was aware of Him.  He knew it, and that propelled Him into the most lovingly submissive act in history.  That’s our example.  Submission alone is not our example:  awareness of God plus submission is Jesus’ incredible example for life.

This is why Peter first wrote extensively about our life and identity in Christ, and then followed that with our natural way of knowing God by living in submission.  The order is important.  We are entirely and forever secure, as is our inheritance, having been born of imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:3-4; 23); we are God’s house and stage of evidence that He cares about everyone (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9;) and, in view of God’s grace to us, we are to live toward righteous deeds, which is our god-given nature and motivation (1 Peter 2:12; see also Romans 8).

After building up the church concerning who and how secure they were with God in chapter one and much of chapter two, Peter then moves into How The Plan Works from there:  God-aware and submissive aliens in whom dwells the Kingdom of God, walk into the day.  What a plan.  The great collision was coming:  the kingdom of God in sons and daughters would meet the kingdom of this world, and the evidence of God reaching for people would be clear. 

Before the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, our conscience, our “inner knower,” was fouled and not free from guilt (see Hebrews 9:9).  But after His act of eternal cleansing and forgiveness, the Christian’s “inner knower” is new and clean, and by our awareness of Him in us does He lead us into acts in keeping with His will and purpose and glory.  That’s how it works, and it’s a big deal.  (See Hebrews 9:11-14.) 

You can take a deep breath and shut your eyes as you go into submission if you want to—it’s okay.  But it’s far better (it’s alive!) when you stay open and alert and aware of God as you go in.  This is how we keep knowing God as we enter into challenging obedience, embarrassing confession of sin and error, and difficult honesty in relationships and see what He does in the sometimes chaos of our submitted lives.  Trusting and knowing God, we take our hands off of the presumed handlebars or steering wheel of control and instead know the rest and grace produced by the Holy Spirit in us. That’s the best!

This is often our way forward—submission so that we can know God, and so that people can know Him, too.  And there’s nothing more important or better.  Right?

(This is a transcript of the video, “Why ‘Submit’ Is Not A Curse Word,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/4voPIzn9wqU.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Heart of Man

Although I had no idea what to expect (other than that John Lynch previously told me it would be terrific), I was tremendously impressed with this movie. It poignantly portrays the deep trauma and sin that drives men and women into the ugly captivity of fear and shame, as well as the ongoing and unrelenting love and grace of Jesus for the sons of God. Frankly, “The Heart of Man” shines upon the screen what I have known and been motivated by since Jesus first rocked my world in 1980.  “With me and because of me, you are well, Ralph! You will always know yourself truly when you look at me, and you will delight and find joy and life and freedom in me. I AM perfectly what you might otherwise search for and never find. And I will work with you to prove myself perfect, so that you will not suffer any idols. This is my pleasure with you.”

My first book is all about this, combining lots of scripture with personal experiences that add up to God’s pleasure with man.  My forthcoming book is an allegory for a diverse audience that I hope portrays God’s desire to reveal Himself as perfect for everyone, especially you. It is the first of a series of books to come—for parents, for kids, for singles, for couples. I would appreciate your prayers and support for the work ahead.

In short, I am cheering because of this movie—wildly, recklessly, happily. I recognized God’s love and effort for us throughout, and that’s the best thing I have ever found. Get as much of that as you can.

(I’m not sure how you can see this movie in the future, but I’m confident that you can. Here’s the link to the web site, which may soon provide details about a DVD, etc.  https://heartofmanmovie.com.)

Friday, September 08, 2017

It's All Free

In my experience, the best of life happens on the inside as a result of knowing—again and again—that God in Christ has justified me. That means that He has made me literally and authentically good, and that He has given me His righteousness, holiness, redemption, sanctification, and every blessing as a gift of His love.  How cool is that?

Jesus earned entirely everything for you for entirely nothing from you. In Him you have been given every blessing already for free. Knowing that is going to affect you, and that’s His plan. Believing that fact is the challenge, but earning it is not.  Anything that teaches less than that makes you crazy.  Maybe you’ve noticed.

The gospel loses its dazzle when you believe that you must work or serve or tithe in order to earn blessings from God.  There are too many of us who have been turned into something like the elder brother of the prodigal, believing that we have to earn what is already ours because of the grace of the Father. Now that’s crazy, and we act a little crazy because of it.

However, you live best when you live by faith in the complete sufficiency of what Christ did for you—not just forgiven as a result of His sin removal system, but given everything that He has.  Everything from God for you is all for free.  The earning is all done, and you can rest.

Taking dictation from God, Isaiah wrote what Jesus fulfilled centuries later: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  ("Well, if I have no money, how can I buy?"  Believe and come near in order to see that it’s all yours for free.)
 Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1, italics mine).

The apostle Paul, himself dazzled by “it’s all free,” wrote to the Ephesians, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

Your life with God is not about a sacrifice you make, but a belief and a trust and a rest in a sacrifice He made.  Because of Him, it’s all free for you.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day the Best Way

On this day when we honor labor in the USA, may I remind you that the best, most authentic labor comes from rest? Not rest in the sense of inactivity or sleep, but rest as a result of being re-secured, re-confidenced (I made that up) in believing that Jesus is your life, your motivational pump, your fruit-producing zest and zeal for labor.  This means, “Indulge yourself in your great relationship with Jesus,” and the Spirit will provide the result of Christ in you. 

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, being struggled with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Enjoy Jesus—and He will take care of the rest.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

No Wonder

After reading or watching a strong dose of news, all too often I start judging the people on paper or on the screen in my mind instead of in my heart, where they are not condemned.  If God lives in my heart, then that is our primary meeting place.  It is there that He influences and affects me.  I’m sure glad for that.  I don’t know what I’d do without those meetings.

If you’ve been angry and judgmental lately and thinking, “This world’s going all to Hell!” well, so it seems.  Yet the One who came not to condemn but to save and to cure is living in you, and that makes you compatible with how He is, with what He thinks and why He came.  You’re a lot like Jesus.  That’s pretty good, you know.  If lately you’re more acquainted with the reasons that Jesus came, but not so much with the cure, you’re set up for revival. 

Many of us are starting a long weekend today.  Why not see to your heart by laying aside this world’s news—we know it’s bad since Jesus came for a reason—and ask the Spirit to spend the weekend with you in a way that He loves.  He will revive you.  He knows how your heart works because it’s just like His.  You fit together.  On purpose.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 01, 2017

God's Favorite Event Today

One of my favorite events is God’s unveiling of me to me. He unclutters my thinking; He detoxes my mind, particularly regarding how He and I are doing together. When that happens, I’m amazed by God . . . and a lot happier, actually.

If that seems selfish, bear with me. Oftentimes the pressures and strategies of this world result in a virtual blindness of ourselves to ourselves. This is not pleasing to God, who has made an incredible change to us through Jesus’ cross and resurrection. He wants everyone to know—especially you. To the extent that we remain unseeing and unconvinced is the degree to which we are hindered in our love affair with God and in our approach to people. What’s the cure? A proper view of His mercy and grace that pulls the cloak off of our minds, revealing the transformation.

What’s God’s favorite event of the day? It might be revealing you to you. He’s rather pleased with His work.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

God & Ralph, The Pizza

This is not heartbroken; this is heart revealed.  This is not empty; this is full.

Sitting in the Helena, Montana, Regional Airport, I have just wrapped up my second “Goodbye Event” of the summer, and I am tired.  I am a jumbled mess.  I am full of love and full of sorrow, and the two combined have rendered me as a sort of emotional pizza, with everything on it—even anchovies.  Nobody likes anchovies.

I delayed saying “Goodbye” to my youngest daughter, Emma, for as long as I could.  I even threatened to not conclude her wedding at the end of the ceremony that I officiated.  “I don’t want to say ‘Amen’”, I said to Emma and Ben, standing regally in front of me and the audience—not because I had any reservations, but because I knew it was a huge part of the Goodbye Event.  I felt like if I did, I would be the guy christening a fancy new ocean liner with a bottle of champagne—“Enjoy your maiden voyage, but I’m not going with you anywhere anymore.”

Full of love and full of sorrow, I somehow said it.  And she was gone.

And now it’s Ellen.  In the same 24 hours that Emma left me, my wife, Sarah and I learned that Ellen would also be moving.  Not to New Zealand, but to Montana which, if it can’t be in her bedroom in my house, is just about as far away.  Together, we’ve crammed in movies, peach hunting, carp bombing, car repairs, road trips, fly fishing, grizzly bear avoidance singing, and home furniture shopping.  Frankly, if she had asked me to shop with her for some fresh, heather scented wall spackle, I wouldn’t have missed it. 

But this morning, I hugged her 817 times and sobbed all over her.  She did too, so that seemed about right.  And then we said it:  “I love you.  See you on FaceTime.” 

Since then, eight people related to the airport have asked, “How’re you doing?” as a way of greeting.  I blubbered my response to the first two:  “I’ve just moved my daughter here, and I’m going home without her.”  I didn’t even finish what I really wanted to say because I couldn’t.  Now I have modified my response to grunts and nods in the attempt to indicate, “I’m fine.  Don’t ask anything more.  You have been warned.”

Maybe by now you’re thinking, “Geez-Louise, Ralph!  Get over it!  Buck up, man, and be thankful you’ve had your daughters around for as long as you have.  You’ve given them roots, now give them wings!”  I don’t blame you, if you are.  But one of the greatest treasures I have ever found is how God is with me when I’m a mess—an extra large, everything-that-shouldn’t-be-mixed-up-on-a-pizza, mess.  “Nobody’s gonna want to deal with that!  Change your mind!  Get a new attitude!  Re-order your life, Ralph!”

But while there’s certainly a time and a place for that kind of thing, I’m “dealing with this” not by changing my mind, but by directing my messy thoughts and feelings to the Holy Spirit.  In my mind, I’ve yelled, “Come on!  I hate this!  If I have to give them wings, is it wrong if I clip them short—you know, like parakeets?  Then they can only fly around my house, but not to freaking New Zealand or stupid Montana!” and “Jesus, I didn’t have kids for this!  What were you thinking, hooking me up with that woman, Sarah, who wanted them in the first place?!” and “Bleeeeeeeep!  I hate this!  What are you going to make out of this, anyway?  I don’t care about nice places to visit, I want them near, where YOU put them in the first place, where they’re supposed to be!” 

And in the combination of love and sorrow expressed to Him, emotions and thoughts all jumbled up and ugly, the Spirit appears in the mess, and comforts and loves me.  He knows that I’m not heartbroken, but that my heart is revealed.  He loves that!  He knows I’m full, and He’s all about love and sorrow and repairing people leaving each other—for good and for bad reasons, leaving jumbled, emotional pizzas behind. 

And—shocker—when I don’t tidy myself up and pull it together, bad stuff doesn’t happen!  My mind says it will be bad, but the Spirit is attracted to such neediness.  He’s better than anyone or anything in it.  And because He has shown Himself to be so good with Ralph, the pizza, I’m going to tell you what I’ve found when your mess emerges from behind the curtains of your attitude.  Or bursting out, as it is with me. 

He’s not telling me to tidy up—He’s telling me that He is with me.  Right here, inside—for the long haul.  For what’s to come.  For the dad I will be now.  Dad at a distance.  DAAD.

I’ve got that to look forward to, and He will be with me in all of it, mess and all.  I’m on my way home, now.  It’ll just be Sarah and me, but I know—I KNOW—we’ll be good because He is with us.

P.S. I made a little slideshow of events beginning in early summer. It's set to a song written for one woman, but frankly, my dreams came true in three.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It Just Seems True

When using certain terms that “just seem true,” think of them in relation to the cross and resurrection before using them.  Those two events changed just about everything, and led to God’s new creation sons and daughters.  There hadn’t been any of those before then. 

For example, to say, “God takes all of His children through the Refiner’s Fire,” might imply that God wants to cook off what bothers Him about you.  ONLY THEN, having burned off your many impurities, can He FINALLY make you something He likes.  But nowhere in the New Covenant do we read that God refines US.  Instead, we read that He has ALREADY refined us, and He is now working to refine our BELIEFS—from lies to truth.  (See Romans 12:2.)  That’s important.

In the New Covenant, heat and our performance in it has nothing to do with changing who we are; faith in Jesus Christ has everything to do with who we are.  God is not heating you up and scraping off your impurities SO THAT He can eventually see His reflection in a finally nice human mirror—He already lives in you!  You’re His perfect house.  He already got rid of anything offensive or impure through including you in the cross and resurrection of Christ.  He thinks that actually worked!  What do you think?  (See Romans 6:1-11.) 

In those times when hardship and difficulty press down upon you, God is not refining you—He knows exactly who you are as His new creation—He is assisting you to know what He knows.  And that takes some refining.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Catch The Pattern

--> In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

One comes to take and to damage thereby; that’s the pattern. The other comes to give and repair; that’s Jesus’ pattern.

I want to remind you today simply that Jesus is not asking you to give Him your heart – He has given you His. Jesus is not asking you to give Him your life – He has given you His. That’s the pattern.

The rest of your days will be about exploring how good He is for you so He can do and give and repair more and more for you. That’s life by Jesus. You like life that comes from Him, right? And He likes giving and repairing. That’s what He’s like. That’s the pattern, and you’re set up for that.

If you’ve been hearing or giving yourself to a contrary pattern, no matter where it comes from, no matter how you hear it, there will be no life in it, and there will, consequently, be no repair. It’s not for you. It’s not from Jesus. One pattern is from this world—take and damage. The other is from Jesus—give and repair. That’s Him.

Catch the pattern. It will help you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lost in Lust

What’s the problem with lust?  Why is it such a big deal?  Evidently, it’s really bad to us since we are so strongly warned about it in Galatians 5:16-17, as well as in 1 John 2: 

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

I think that the lust we are warned about is the drive to find our identity—who we actually are—completed by a person, a position, or a possession because we don’t know or have forgotten our identity given to us by God.  We are the miracle-born sons of God.  Perfect.  Made by Him.  And the love of God reminds us of that all the time so, convinced about it, we live as He intended—by faith in Jesus.

If any other identity (husband, wife, businessman, ministry leader, etc.) becomes primary, then we are in trouble because we will stop being our true selves in the attempt to become something else, something that seems to work and get us what we want.

What cripples us is that we work to get our identity, that which says we are complete and right, another way than what God has revealed, and it’s the way of the lie:  “You are not complete, you are not good unless you can get him, get her, get that job, buy that car.”  Played out, lust says that you’ll be complete if you can keep getting what identifies you well, so become whatever is required to win your identity.  That is from the world around you—it’s not from the Father, and it’s not from the Spirit who lives in you.  The ones following after lust will be daily traumatized by wondering if they’re doing everything right.  In the inner trauma, love from the Father will be strangled, and they will act like it.

And the bigger problem?  They’re no longer themselves.  In their effort to complete their identity, they’ve become a slave to the lie that they don’t already have one.  They’re lost—not to God, but to themselves.  The wonder of the new creation escapes them, even while they are part of it.  What they are attempting to get is “passing away” each day, and must be recaptured and lost, recaptured and lost, again and again. 

That’s the ugliness of lust. 

However, those of us who believe that God has given us an identity worth cherishing, an identity that means He has made us exactly as He wants us, an identity in which are all the blessings of Christ, that belief is the will of God.  And that means eternal life—God’s life given to you and me. 

Stay there.  Keep getting that identity from God, and you won’t get lost in lust.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Your Place In God's Parade

I have important news for you:  you are not indebted to God.  You owe Him nothing.  He likes it that way, and works to keep you convinced of it. 

The attempt to “pay Him back” for all that He has done for you is an unintended rejection of His intention with you:  to prove how perfect He is toward everyone by His undeserved and lavish generosity with you. Parading you is how He gets credit.

So when people introduce obligation between you and God—“After all God has done for you, how can you not give your all for Him?”—not only are we robbed of the fullness and joy of God’s grace, but so is He.

The apostle Paul wrote that God “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:14-15).

God went public!  How cool is it when we do too?  In other words, He has taken away everything against you, and He wants everyone to know all about it—heavenly rulers and authorities, as well.  Jesus took away not only your debt, but also the laws you broke which would have proved it.  There is no evidence of you ever being a law-breaker, of you ever being in trouble with Him, or of you ever owing God anything.  He did that at the cross!

God’s grace never creates debt; God’s grace always pays debt.  Knowing that is the perfect motivator for you, His new creation.  Maybe you’re feeling joy and freedom right now because I’m reminding you about how awesome He is toward you.  That’s how He sort of “comes alive” in you and to you—and to others.  So let’s not introduce anything that diminishes God’s triumphant grace parade.  You’re front and center, and He’s got you parading in front of an important audience.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Your Place In God’s Parade”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/xghbA7u56cw.)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Your Place In God's Parade

You are not indebted to God.  Why not, and why is that important?  Spend 3 minutes with me to find out what fun God is having with you.  You’ll be glad you did.


Friday, August 04, 2017

We're Under Grace

I don’t know what you’re doing with your life as it involves others, but for the rest of my days I promise to keep everyone accountable to the grace of God.  Grace is for life—the length of it and the enjoyment of it.  Romans 6:14 reads, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

I know that the word “accountable” might be an odd word to put together with “grace,” but it comes as something of a response to the legalistic “accountability police”, who seem always to be prosecuting even Christians with the word.  “You’ll be held accountable for that,” they might say.  That always makes me shudder . . . and maybe want to vomit . . . on them.  Is that wrong? 

“Grace” doesn’t mean that nothing matters; grace means that Jesus matters.  He’s got us, and He’s given us all of His righteousness and holiness.  I’m going to hold you to that, because believing it, over and over again, is how you live by grace.  Jesus was successful for you two thousand years ago, and He is successful for you and with you today.  Believing that will have an effect because grace always works.  You’ll like it, and Christ in you will be in evidence.  Others will like that, too.

But keeping yourself in the crosshairs of your own gun—“I’ll be held accountable”—or turning it upon others—“You’ll be held accountable”—is not Christian living.  It may seem to help people by temporarily altering their behavior, but it actually hurts them by pushing them toward fleshly living.  Choosing your own behavioral righteousness over the gift of His will immerse you into foreign territory, where you will be unrecognizable to yourself.  In other words, you won’t work right.  And I don’t like that at all.  That’s why I don’t like the accountability police.
   
However, if grace is grace, then it’s for them, too.  So I’m going to hold them accountable to God’s grace. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Where Is The Power of God?

It is far better to tell Christians that they have been changed than it is to tell them to change.  Only then can they live by faith in what Jesus did, rather than by faith in what they must do.  That distinction is crucial!  Marveling at the change that took place for them and to them is the only way of hope for the uncertainty of their days in this world. 

Get that order out of order (which we all-too-often have), and life by works is the unavoidable result.  That won’t work.  Not for anybody.  It’s not supposed to.  Life is by faith that Jesus was successful for you and with you—that’s the gospel.  It’s fantastic news!  And that’s where the power of God is.

Stay there, and works will follow.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Where Is The Power of God?” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/w-AJGGrkU-U, or simply scroll down this blog page.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Where Is The Power of God?

Got 1.5 minutes?  A lot of us are worn out and wondering what we’ve done wrong to become so, . . . blah.  We’ve got a power-outage.  The solution is better than you think. 


Monday, July 31, 2017

More & Less

If we are going to live by the Holy Spirit (and, it seems to me, that is the way for a new creation), then we’ll need to think of love more as a person—Jesus—and less as a behavior. Otherwise, love easily becomes a burdensome imitation, a copycat, rather than the genuine article—the real deal—alive in us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life Around Home


Remember:  you are God’s temple, His sacred home.  You are not empty, you are not trashy, you are not messed up, you are not hopeless—you are where God lives.  Thinking about how He made that happen will re-attract you to Him, and He will make sure you know what life is like around home.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stop Right There

In the darkness of the middle of the night, I was wielding a baseball bat and chasing burglars through unlit hallways and across a rooftop.  It was 1986, and another pastor and I lived in a church that had been burglarized earlier in the day.  Separated from my fellow pastor, I pursued several fleeing figures that I could barely see, hoping to get close enough to . . . I don’t know what.  Turning a faintly lit corner, I came face to face with a police officer, his gun drawn and pointing at my chest.  “Stop right there!” he commanded.  I did.  “Who are you?” he demanded.  Raising my hands and baseball bat above my head, I stammered, “I’m a pastor—Ralph Harris—and I live here.  My roommate must have called you.”

I have never forgotten the feeling of grave danger and of being out of control.  My life was on the line, unless and until I answered that question adequately and the truth made the difference.  It did.

I want you to stop, at least for a moment, and answer the question, “Who are you?”  However you answer that question will reveal what you think will save you because your life is on the line.

There is an awful lot that suggests an “awful you” or a “lesser you,” one that bears little resemblance to who you are because of how you’ve been made—or re-made by God.  And if you’re reading this, chances are good that you know what I’m talking about:  the new creation you.  I’m not talking about the businessman or businesswoman you, I’m not talking about the student you, the employee you, or the father, mother, son or daughter you.  Those are all tributary identities to the primary identity—to the source identity—to the “you” you truly are.  I’m talking about the you that is clean and holy and perfect, the Spirit-born you, an actual son of God, a light in this world, in whom the Kingdom of God dwells, God having seen to it, God having seen to you, through the new birth in Christ. 

I’m talking about that you.  And I simply want to remind you today that sometimes you’ve got to stop or be stopped (as it was with me) in order to think again about who you are because it can seemingly get lost in the things we do.  And if we have been made to live by faith in Christ (that He was who He said He was and who He says He is, perfect God toward man) and that you and I are who He says we are (perfect sons and daughters), then we’re going to have to answer that question, “Who are you?”  We’ll even have to ask it of ourselves so we can proceed in our days and live from the answer.  Only then can our tributary identities receive and be influenced from the source.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to ask that sort of question of myself all the time.  As perfectly united with God as I am, having Him now inside of me, when I wake in the morning sometimes it seems as though God and I did nothing together at all yesterday, or that He doesn’t even exist, which puts me in serious trouble.   I’ve lost my identity and am subject to the lesser ones of this world.  There’s a lot of grief and twistedness there.  But He does exist, and I am well with Him; it’s just that my thinking needs a repentance—a “WAKE UP!” call.

And then I am revived.  The Holy Spirit in me sees to me, takes care of me, and together we can do all things.  So can you when you’ve had your wake up call.  Maybe this, “Stop right there!” will serve that purpose.

But just in case:  “Who are you?”
 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Happy Audience

Sometimes it occurs to me that I’ve got a bigger audience than I think. 

Whatever is tempting me, whether fear, lust, covetousness, envy, pride—whatever—how excellent it is to offer myself to God, now inside of me.  You’ve got to know that the angels rejoice whenever they see me doing that, not only because they know that recovery is beginning and that I believe that Christ is inside of me (I’m living by faith), but they also know that my friendship with God is proving to be as good as they know it is.  I think they love that.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The God Who Doesn't Pay Attention

I have a question for you today:  Do you know “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention”?  Do you know that God? 

Your relationship with this god goes something like this:  you make a deal with him, you put together some kind of covenant, with really good stuff in it, like reading the bible all the way through in a year, supporting a missionary or a child in India, talking to people about Jesus and sharing your faith, giving up alcohol or chocolate for a year, etc., so that god will give you something better that you don’t have now.  You know—like a better job, a better car, a better home, a better spouse(!), or a better something.  And you follow through but God doesn’t.  You keep your end of the deal (you actually start supporting a missionary), but God doesn’t come through with his.  That’s “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention,” and that’s what I’m talking about.  Naturally, you struggle with this god, trying to figure out what kind of agreement or what kind of covenant you can make with him that he’ll honor and actually complete.

After all, you’re trying to work with him.

And somewhere in the course of your struggle with “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention,” it occurs to you that maybe God isn’t bargaining with you, that maybe he’s not playing the covenant game with you at all.  Keep that thought.

In fact, God is not making covenants with people at all.  He’s not doing it.  The truth is that God is paying attention to only one covenant now, and He made it with Jesus only—you simply get all of the benefits and blessings of their covenant.  God kept you out of the covenant equation and the pressure to keep it so He can give you everything as a gift forever.  Eternally.  For free.

Hebrews 9:15 says that, “. . . Christ is the mediator of a new covenant (He’s the one who brings us together with God and keeps us together, no matter what), that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  (Parenthesis mine.)  It’s all a gift.  Forever.

2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Amen? 

So the next time you think that God isn’t paying attention to your attempts at bargaining for yourself, of making an agreement for yourself, remember this:  You’re right.  He isn’t.  He’s paying attention to Jesus, and you’re far better off because of it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Two Words of Encouragement

People commonly attempt to encourage by extolling our great possibilities because of our great potential and the virtues of all that we can do, which is a good thing.  But sometimes I’m better built up by remembering how very little I actually need to do.

To illustrate, consider two of my favorite words:  “Rahab lied.”  There you go.  How does that make you feel?  Off the charts with encouragement?  Over the moon? 

Well, think about it.  Rahab, the hooker, is on the short list of the Biblical Hall of Fame, found in Hebrews 11.  Maybe you know who is in the Hall of Fame:  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses (“Let my people go!”), Gideon, Samson, David and Samuel.  If you’re aware of the story of their lives, then you know that they had weaknesses, but that didn’t stop God with them at all.  He did great and miraculous things with each of them.

What was Rahab’s signature moment that boosted her into God’s Hall of Fame?  She lied!  Joshua, king of Israel, sent spies into Jericho to see how things looked just over the hill.  However, the king of Jericho found out about the Israelite spies, and sent some of his soldiers directly to the one person’s house that would know about any men who were new to the community.  Who was that?  The town prostitute.  Of course.  She’d know.

What did our little Hall of Famer do?  Having hidden the spies on her roof under the camouflage of some branches—certainly no one would think to look up there—she cooked up a story.  A fabrication.  You know—a lie!  “Um, yeah, the strangers came to my home, but I didn’t know who they were.  And they left just before dark.  I don’t know where they went, but if you hurry, you can probably catch ‘em.”

And there it is, Rahab’s Hall of Fame moment.  Woo-hoo!  Congratulations.  Well done, girl.  Gimme five!  Confetti everywhere.

Yes, Rahab believed that the true God had sent the people who were on their way to Jericho and whose spies were hunkered down on her rooftop.  That was as much as she had.  On the strength of that, did she go out and evangelize the neighborhood to prepare for their coming?  No.  Did she pass out flyers inviting them to a potluck?  No.  Did she spend time in anguished prayer?  No.  Did she get rid of everything unclean and non-Jewish in her house before the people of God came for their visit, I mean, their invasion?  No.  Did she spend time in worship, or did she reach out to the poor and needy to earn favor with God before the invasion came?  No.  Rahab lied.  Nothing else. 

Why do I tell you this?  Because much of our fretting and worrying is over how seemingly meager our service or sacrifice for God is when looking over our past—that it all fails to amount to anything significant.  We remember great motivational sermons to do great things for God that drew from us great pledges of great commitment to great adventures of service to our great God.  It felt GREAT when we did it. But the years since have not revealed greatness.

Confronted by failed greatness, maybe we’ve closed off just a bit on the inside.  Maybe we’ve sort of turned off the lights in our heart, and we’re quietly disillusioned with ourselves.  “Greatness is for someone, but not me,“ we might think.  “What have I ever done that really matters to God?”

So, to answer that question, I have one for you:  What did Rahab do to get into God’s Hall of Fame?  On the count of three, what did Rahab do?  1, 2, 3:  “Rahab lied.”  She is the brilliant epitome of mustard seed faith; the tiniest little seed of faith in God, clumsily planted, and the mountain that was Jericho began to move.  Wow.

In our day we’re so caught up with doing things right that we miss, sometimes entirely, what God holds dear and values, which would set us free from much of the fear that plagues us.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the fearfully perfectionistic, rule-enamored Galatians: 

Galatians 3:2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit (In other words, ‘Did you get God”) by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? . . . 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law (because you do things right), or because you believe what you heard?  (Parentheses mine.)

We know the answer.  If you were to scan the great and worthy days of my life in order to figure out my lineage, my relatives, I know you’d find that Rahab types figured prominently.

God measures in ways far better than we know.  I can’t imagine that Rahab thought much of her lie that night, but God did.  You may rest today, knowing that on the day you meet Jesus face to face on the other side, you will receive a rich inheritance that is imperishable, un-spoiled and fadeless, kept for you by your Father, who is pleased with His Son, who provided it all for you.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Two Words of Encouragement”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/wjHqfbU4df0.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

God Bless America

While we struggle like other countries, our struggles are not hidden because common men and women—the “everybody” of our melting pot—gave rise to our nation’s birth. Like them, we are actively assessing the needs of people near and far, citizen and foreigner, and laboring to choose our country’s approach to tomorrow. While some may fault us, I’m glad for our inventive and courageous heart that often struggles for the benefit and freedom of others. No other country does it as well as we do. That’s amazing and scary at the same time, but we’re all involved. We’re all responsible. It’s the greatest profit sharing plan ever. God bless America!

The Look That Works

There are many common ways by which we are measured and by which to measure ourselves, right?  What pressure that is.  What a lot of work it all is.  Have you noticed?   If we attempt to manage ourselves by those measurements and we interpret our success in that light, we darken and do not receive grace.

If, however, our “measurement” is God’s gift of never-ending righteousness in Christ, His gift of “It is well, and you are too,” then we will enjoy the fact that we have been taken from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of the Son.  That’s where we are.  Only by believing (and sometimes newly believing again and again) that we are where God says we are, and that we are how God says we are can we accurately measure ourselves.  In other words, only then can we live with the person we think we are!  It’s the only way—the only true way.  And that’s when the pressure eases, because we’re enjoying the riches of our inheritance—the gift—given to us in Christ. 

The GOOD NEWS, the big deal, is that we had nothing to do with achieving or earning the gift; we are happy receivers only and always.  And by looking at it, by enjoying the gift, we are built up and encouraged in Him.  That’s how this all works—that’s how WE work—by looking at the gift.  God set it up for us.

I know it doesn’t fit with the pressures and measurements of this world, and, really, you can keep immersing yourself and swimming in the crazy currents of this world’s identity measurements if you like.  But the truth is, they don’t work.  And you don’t fit.  Jesus took care of all that by taking care of you.

Now watch this—pay attention to how you feel as you read the following, which was written for you: 

“ . . . joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you (in other words, He has made you right! It is well, and you are too.) to share in the inheritance (the gifted inheritance) of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  (Colossians 1:12-14, parenthesis mine.)

Already and all done!  You’re in and you’ve got it all.  No worries.  Remember?

(This is a transcript of the video, “The Look That Works,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video and/or to subscribe, click http://youtu.be/x3WzwNfcG5k.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

In just a couple of hours, I will assist my baby into the happy next work of God, which we will celebrate with abandon: Emma's marriage to Ben Rolfe. I am humbled, I have a nearly overwhelming sense of God’s beautiful design from days long past now being revealed, and I am fairly undone and wrecked with love for my girl. Emma, I love you.

Friday, June 23, 2017

He's Not an Alcoholic

After mentioning a Christian guy’s name, a friend of mine and I suddenly realized that we each knew him. My friend said, “Yeah, he’s an alcoholic.” And two things occurred to me: he had gone blind to this mutual friend, and both of them were injured as a result.

2 Corinthians 5: 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

If we're going to help people, we must choose the true, new creation view of them, and assist them in Christ. That helps them most, and keeps us from reckless and futile attempts that fail and frustrate us.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stand In Freedom

While you will feel pressure today to be something powerful, to be something dynamic, to be something productive and praiseworthy, Jesus will be laboring to keep you free of such pressure, and free to be the son or daughter He fashioned perfectly for His display of grace and glory.  He will be working to keep our sons and daughters free, our spouses and friends free, and even those who oppress us free from the ludicrous lie that life is about conquest, instead of the rest of bearing fruit and of building others up in the freedom of knowing and enjoying Jesus.  Some will not understand that—not yet, anyway—but you do. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stupid Days Stuck In-Between

Do you ever feel like you’re caught between what you want to do and what you have to do instead?  Do you ever struggle between some kinds of business principles or workplace rules and those of the Kingdom? And does it ever get so frustrating that you have a blow up or a break down?  You know, really lose it?

I simply thought from Jesus this morning that He knows we’re prone to frustration and anxiety and outbursts of temper:  “I can’t handle this!”  And He has not one iota of condemnation for us—not one.  I think He wants you to know that.

You and I are living life caught between two worlds—the temporal and the eternal.  The one we can see, and the one we can’t.  The one that passes away, and the one that lasts forever.  Just as the world in which we fit and belong begins to get into focus—“I can see it!  I can taste it!”—the other one comes barging in.  I can be enjoying the day, knowing Jesus and trusting in Him, when suddenly something worldly knocks me over . . . or knocks me mad or regretful.  I remember a bill I forgot to pay (and now, because of the interest added, I don’t have enough to pay it), I get a phone call from my daughter, who tells me that I forgot to pick her up (Great! Don’t I care?), or my health shows signs of getting bad, and I’m uncomfortable about how the future looks.  And then some clown in the parking lot cuts me off, and one of those, “I’m saving the planet” electric cars silently (and arrogantly, I’m sure) zooms into my parking space before I can.  And, let me tell you, it all starts adding up and boiling over.

It’s like I’m happily flirting with spiritual maturity, and then it rudely breaks up with me. “Not happening, baby breath!  Change your diaper!”  I don’t like it at all.

Or maybe I read someone’s facebook post that’s supposed to encourage me, but it’s got so much, you know, over-the-top, “everything and everyone is beautiful, life is good, butterflies for everyone!” junk that I want to throw up on their post.

But the truth is that I’m no less of an attractive target for the life and love and grace of God Himself than I was yesterday.  Maybe I’m a bigger target.  “Hooray for me!”  I can imagine a picture of my face on a big billboard alongside the freeway with the title:  “God’s most needy.”  Frankly, we’re all in competition for that title; I just think I’m winning.

I know that none of us really wants to be the most needy place for God’s work today.  But, if it’s true, He doesn’t mind.  He doesn’t have something better to do.  When you consider how He moved in order to get to the most needy during His days among us, do you think He’ll stop before getting to you, repulsed by your neediness?  No way.  He’s really good with that.

And He doesn’t have far to go in order to get to you, right? 

Romans 5:5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Where’s the glory or evidence of God going to show up best?  In me.  In you.) 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  (Parenthesis mine.)

So if you’re having one of those sloppy, stuck-in-between days, take a moment to breathe.  There is such purpose to this life, and through it all, God holds us securely in Christ, holy and righteous, priests of the earth. 

While this life is a mess, the next one won’t be.  But in the next one there won’t be any chance to live by faith in what we cannot see, no opportunity to grow and succeed in the battle against temptation, no one to lead to Jesus, no friend we need to pray for, no groceries to buy for a down-and-outer, and no forgetfulness that means we need to apologize to someone.  Nothing will be in-between anymore.  Everything will be exactly—way beyond exactly—as our hearts long for it to be.

That will be such a good day!  Just not today.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Most Satisfying

Here’s a question I was recently asked by a pretty antagonistic guy:  “What’s all this about childishness with Christians?  Doesn’t God want you to be mature and independent?”

My favorite thing of all is knowing Christ in me.  I love knowing Him, and seeing His grace and fruit in me and through me—His evidence—is the highest benefit.  I enjoy talking with Him and looking for Him and what He might do or say or lead, and I believe that is the essence of maturity. God doesn’t give birth to sons and daughters in order to one day separate from them, as though independence is His goal, maturity the result. 

As a son, I can do whatever I want—I am that kind of free—and what I want most is to know Him.  I am His child, but that doesn’t mean immaturity; it means offspring.  His delight (and my joy) is to grow us up with Him in such a way that we find out how perfect He is with us and for us.  In that way, dependence or independence isn’t the thing, togetherness is the thing; and that’s most satisfying for both.

I hope this helps.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Convention 220: Freedom In Christ Audio Available!

They’re available!  The audio files from our recent Convention 220: Freedom In Christ, have been bundled together into a terrific package for only $19.99.  That’s Andrew Farley, John Lynch, Frank Friedmann, Tracy Levinson and Wynema Clark, Jeremy White, Mark Maulding, Nicole Nicole Fitzpatrick, Bruce Barteaux, Bill Loveless, Davey Shollenberger, and even my workshop (“Finding Grace In A Dry Place”) is part of the deal.  Click the link to find out more and to order!  It's easy.

http://www.thelifebookstore.com/index.php?module=content&content_id=6357

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Connection

As ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21), we are not serving people only a message of perfect condition with God (as good as that is), we are also serving a message of perfect connection with Him.  The connection is with Him, remember?  And He is Life!  Life with personality.  Life with feeling.  Life with direction.  Life with vision.  Life that had no beginning and has no ending.  Not just length of time life, but a new kind of life connected with Him.  “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Enjoy His life and you will be enjoying reconciliation.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Three Words For Those Who Suffer

For those who suffer (as I do) from the stress and grief sometimes brimming over in our days, let me remind you that as insecure, insufficient and inept as everything often seems, three other words besides those are the gospel and power of God that rises up in you and me, heralding, shouting what is to come.  Everything we have because of Jesus—All of it!—is “imperishable” (it is ever-lasting and eternal), “un-spoiled” (it is untarnished and undefiled—there is no “Sell by” date!), and “fade-less” (the radiance of what you and I have will never diminish).  And all of it is secured, reserved and guarded for you by God Himself.  Nobody can touch it—not you, not me, not anyone, not any thing.  Nothing can change it.

1 Peter:1:2b Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Imperishable
Un-spoiled
Fade-less

We are well and we are secure, even on whacked-out, crazy, stress-full planet earth. 

(This is a transcript of the video, “Three Words For Those Who Suffer,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/xh7h6fupHb8.)

Share Your Fears

Please don’t keep your fears to yourself, as though they were your own to keep and deal with. That would be selfish. Share them with Jesus. Even over and over again. He loves meeting and sharing with you in anything and everything, and never tires of it. He’s perfect, so you don’t have to be.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Builder's Building

The church has become very difficult to see because we're confused about the building.

I know very well what it's like to be part of church-in-the-building leadership, and the pressure is high to get people to come and to "engage" in some manner. Whether and how people engage becomes the way by which leadership sees its effectiveness. Poor attendance and poor engagement reflects badly, leading to assessments, strategies and pressure for improvement. Good attendance and good engagement reflects well and becomes a template: "This is how we do ministry around here." Either way, attendance and engagement become the measurements for leaders, and attendees are caught in the measurements. (In fact, they also often adopt them.)

I would say that neither leaders nor attendees do well when this form of assessment is foundational. When it is, no one will be seen for who he or she really is in Christ, magnificent and noble, since that invisible and eternal reality will have been camouflaged by another one, visible and temporary. Our efforts and appeals will go toward the latter because that's what we see and that's what we can manage. (So we think.) Many of us attempt to live right there, in the passing away realm, contorting our true selves in the vain effort to make life happen where there is none. And so much fails from there.

But if we see what's true, if we believe God about what He does for and to the born again—It's astounding!—if that's our foundation, then we can go forward well from there. It will look different, to be sure, especially in a building. It must, since God is the builder and you are the building.